Part 2 of this series will cover the trade portion of the offseason.
Something to note here: Various players mentioned before and now in Part 2 may have already been involved in a deal. These trades took place during the final stages of completing this project, so I plan to continue my discussion as if the Rays roster looks as it did heading into the offseason.
Jose Ramirez vs Ketel Marte:
I strongly weighed the costs and benefits of adding premier talents like Jose Ramirez and Ketel Marte to the Rays this offseason. They are both seemingly obvious fits for the Rays to add. Here was my thought process behind it.
- Jose Ramirez’s Case
- Perfect blend of hit, speed, and defense
- $12 million is not cheap, especially for the Rays
- But it is cheap relative to the value Ramirez brings
- Rays have the means and prospect depth to do it
- Ramirez more well-rounded, better player than Marte
- Ketel Marte’s Case
- D-Backs not close to competing with top teams in division
- Coming off 2 straight last place NL West finishes
- 6th ranked farm system according to BR after draft
- Doesn’t project to be with team long term, especially with their OF class coming up
- Marte is cheaper, younger option that may bring similar, but not quite equal return
This ultimately comes down to what the Rays value more. Teams like the Rays tend to value “value.” Marte is more of a “value” trade option when comparing the two because he is younger and $4 million cheaper, but the production drop-off between him and Ramirez may not necessarily be more than $4 million. However, the Rays are one of the best at finding value, so the $4 million they would add to their payroll by choosing Ramirez over Marte can be made up. If Kiermaier is traded, his $12 million salary will just essentially be replaced by Ramirez who hands down brings more for their given AAVs. There are also plenty of other avenues to cut salaries. Marte would bring a versatile, switch-hitting bat who absolutely crushes lefties and still hits right very well. Ramirez is one of the best 3B in all of baseball who still can play other infield positions if needed. He hits both lefties and righties at a consistently elite rate and provides an incredible blend of defense and speed. He is the exact type of player to push the Rays to a World Series title. All for $12 million dollars. That is expensive to the Rays but that AAV places him as one of the most cost-friendly superstars in the game today. Looking ahead to the next 2 years while Ramirez would be under contract, there are 0 core pieces (Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, etc) who would be due for free agency or an absolutely necessary extension. In addition, $5 million in Evan Longoria’s salary will be off the books after 2022. Taking on the $12 million for Ramirez now does not appear to inhibit their abilities to maintain other crucial roster pieces in the near future. I think the move is worth the risk in terms of loss of prospects and payroll. The gains will heavily outweigh the costs. It is a calculated risk but I believe it is one worth taking. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Guardians are in a true position to part ways with Ramirez unless they are completely blown away in a deal. This would likely warrant a lot of MLB-ready talent, especially for two years of team control for Ramirez. I don’t think the Rays should pursue this type of overpay, even if the reward is Jose Ramirez. The same goes for Ketel Marte. There will be many other suitors for his services, meaning that the Rays will have to overpay to outbid these other teams. I believe there are other “value” deals to be had that the Rays should explore instead.
|Core||Unlikely to be Traded||Middle Zone||Likely Tradable Assets|
|Wander Franco||Yandy Diaz||Francisco Mejia||Kevin Kiermaier|
|Brandon Lowe||Brett Phillips||Jordan Luplow||Manuel Margot|
|Randy Arrozarena||Vidal Brujan||Mike Brossseau||Austin Meadows|
|Mike Zunino||Taylor Walls||Joey Wendle|
|Josh Lowe||Ji-Man Choi|
|Core||Unlikely to be Traded||Likely Tradable Assets|
|Shane McClanahan||J.P. Feyereisen||Tyler Glasnow|
|Shane Baz||J.T. Chargois||Ryan Yarbrough|
|Luis Patino||Yonny Chirinos||Andrew Kittredge|
|Drew Rasmussen||Matt Wisler|
I expect the players under the “Likely Tradable Assets” to be heavily discussed in trade talks.
The first player the Rays should trade is Joey Wendle. The Rays acquired Wendle in 2017 and he has been one of their key role players ever since. Wendle is best described as a “ballplayer” and his blend of offense, defense, speed, and versatility embodies what the Rays value and try and get out of their players. Trading him will leave a hole on their roster for multiple reasons, but at this point, it is necessary given their financial restrictions and ability to potentially recreate his value. A player like Wendle fits into a lot of teams.
Dodgers – Joey Wendle
Rays -Victor González
Victor González now seems like the odd man out in the Dodger’s left-handed bullpen regime. He regressed a bit from his breakout in 2020, but still possesses strong postseason experience and pitch traits that the Rays value. In 2020, González had an incredible .197 wOBA while allowing 3 runs and 0 barrels in 20.1 innings of work. He continued his effectiveness in the postseason and was a large part of the Dodgers’ bullpen success. However, he did struggle a bit in 2021 and was optioned to Triple-A midway through the season.
González has some very attractive pitch characteristics for the Rays to play around with. His sinker ranked in the top 15 among all left-handed pitchers in terms of horizontal break (HB). The 17.8 inches of horizontal movement on the pitch is well above-average and is especially tough coming in from the left side at 94.5 MPH from a low vertical release point (4.8). González’s slider complements his sinker nicely too. The pitch takes more of a gyro form but still does a great job of generating soft contact. He also throws an efficient fastball with plus HB (17.1 in). The sinker/slider combo was still dominant against lefties, but ran into some trouble against righties a bit in 2021. Leaving balls over the plate, especially with two strikes, seemed to be one of the contributors to this. Nonetheless, González still has the makings to be a tremendous reliever and continue to induce soft contact. Alex Vesia and Justin Bruhil have emerged as the two primary high-leverage lefties out of the Dodger pen. Both are still cheap, leaving room for Victor González to be expendable.
The Dodges would gain an extremely versatile and useful player in Joey Wendle who help fill a hole with the potential losses of Corey Seager and Chris Taylor looming this offseason. Wendle is by no means a flashy, “LA-type” player but he fits the Chris Taylor mold of versatile and undervalued. Over the past four seasons, Wendle has a .329 wOBA against RHP and has played plus defense at three infield positions. He doesn’t swing and miss a lot, makes contact in the zone at an above-average rate, and is an above-average runner. And the Dodgers can also easily afford his arbitration raise. The deal would save the Rays about $4 million and would gain a left-handed reliever only one year removed from pure dominance. González is entering his age-26 season and still has two more years of team control before arbitration. Two smart organizations doing business again.
The next player to go is Austin Meadows.
Guardians – Austin Meadows
Rays – Nick Sandlin, mid-tier pitching prospect
The Guardians are a perfect match for this trade. Meadows fills a much-needed hole in the outfield and in the lineup. The Guardians are in no true position to sell off their premier assets. They have loads of strong, young pitching with team control and should continue to build their offense around Jose Ramirez, Myles Straw and Amed Rosario. Austin Meadows would be a great start in doing so as he would be a huge upgrade on the offensive end for the Guardians. Meadows has been a key component of the Rays’ offense for the past few seasons. Unfortunately, his projected arbitration raises will be a bit too steep for Rays to keep on their payroll moving forward. The Rays are always in a position to maximize value while cutting their spending. Nick Sandlin does just that. Sandlin was a very effective reliever for Cleveland in 2021. In 33.2 innings pitched, Sandlin allowed a .269 wOBA and was among the upper echelon of relievers in FIP (2.96) and SIERA (3.27). He was effective in both inducing weak contact and generating whiffs.
|2021 Relievers||wOBA||AVG Exit Velocity (MPH)||Hard Hit %||Whiff/Swing %|
Here we can see how Sandlin compared to some of the better relievers in 2021. Sandlin’s arsenal primarily features a Slider/Sinker combo with a 4-seam fastball mixed in about 14 % percent of the time. The slider is his main offering which was very effective against both righties and lefties (.246/.234 wOBA split). The pitch generates about 12.1 inches of HB which is above-average in terms of movement profile. Sandlin’s slider had a 47.1 Whiff% and a 29.1 PutAway% despite being thrown nearly half the time. His sinker is also a plus pitch that features above-average HB (-16.5 in), a trait that the Rays have coveted with their sinker-ball pitchers.
Nick Sandlin Pitch Characteristics
|Pitch %||MPH||VB (in)||HB (in)|
The sinker and slider play really well off of each other. Sandlin throws from a unique arm slot with an average 4.4 vertical release point and -3.4 horizontal release point. His vertical release point is the 16th lowest and his horizontal release point ranks as the 10th widest among all right-handed pitchers. To put these into perspective, the majority of the names ahead of him on these lists are primarily submarine or side-armed pitchers. Think Steve Cishek or Ryan Thompson for guys with comparable/more extreme release points.
Just see how close the two pitches look the same up until the plate. This, paired alongside a substantial velo difference and his unique release points, make the two offerings extremely difficult to hit for any batter.
I haven’t even discussed his fastball yet which has a very flat VAA (-3.8), boding well for success up in the zone. Similar to the sinker, the pitch has below-average VB but above average HB. He threw his fastball up in zone 57 times out of 85 total pitches and only allowed 4 hits (HR, 3B, 2B, and weak single) on 13 total BBE. The flat VAA coupled with his already effective pitch and mechanical characteristics could result in greater success on the fastball, especially when thrown up in the zone.
Sandlin would be very valuable to the Cleveland bullpen next year but he is more expendable due to the strong depth in their pitching staff along with arms like Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, and the recent emergence of Anthony Gose to hold down the later innings. The Guardians need to improve their offense in order to compete and support their deep pitching. Meadows can help solidify the heart of their order and is worth the cost of a reliever in Sandlin. The same goes for the Rays as they give up an extremely valuable piece on offense but shed about $4 million in salary and gain an extremely capable, cheap and potentially elite back-end arm to improve their bullpen heading into 2022. Sandlin was dealing with a shoulder injury in 2021, but is set to return in 2022 and the Rays have enough organizational depth to get by until his return. If the Rays can somehow steal a guy like recent draft pick, Gavin Williams, as a throw-in to this deal, then that would be incredible. But, this is largely dependent on how the Guardians value each of the three players and how desperate they are to improve their offense for contention. Baseball Trade Values has Meadows valued at $9.6 million, Sandlin at $7.6 million, and Williams at $5.4 million. This wouldn’t be a completely lop-sided deal if that was the return agreed upon, but would likely be valued as a slight overpay on Cleveland’s end. Another mid-tier piece on the Tampa end of the deal would likely need to be added. If not, then a mid-tier pitching prospect with projectable stuff would be a nice completion to the deal. Overall, this appears to be a favorable outcome for both sides involved.
The next trade:
Marlins – Francisco Mejia, Rule 5 OF (Ruben Cardenas / Cal Stevenson)
Rays – Garrett Cooper, Zach McCambley, Connor Scott
The Rays have an overload of Rule 5 eligible prospects and won’t be able to keep some of them. Instead of risking losing them for nothing, it is important to make trades like these in order to maximize their value. Here’s where the Marlins come into play. The Marlins traded away Starling Marte and Adam Duvall at the trade deadline and are now thin at the outfield position. The Rays have some organizational depth in the outfield and could be at risk of losing some of that depth to the draft. This would be a similar trade in nature to the Jesus Sanchez deal just a few seasons ago. Guys like Ruben Cardenas or Cal Stevenson could be an option for the Marlins to explore in this deal. Stevenson is an athletic, left-handed outfielder with good speed and hit tools. Cardenas is coveted for his power and arm strength.
Catcher is another significant need for the current Marlins’ team. Their top catching prospect was just drafted out of high school and is still years away from the majors. Francisco Mejia is a solid MLB catcher whose upside has always been greater than the actual production. Regardless, he’s only 26 years old and can be a valuable trade piece and contribute to a team in a positive way. Mejia is a switch-hitter who can be a solid mainstay in the lineup against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. He had a .320 wOBA with 108 wRC+ and a 17.7 K% in 2021. The catcher market is relatively thin this offseason, so including Mejia in the deal could bring a nice return for the Rays.
Garrett Cooper is one of the more underrated players in the game today. He’s battled some injuries over the last three years, but when healthy, all Cooper has done is hit. Since 2019, Cooper has a .356 wOBA and 126 wRC+ in 804 plate appearances. His defense is serviceable at best but he has the versatility to play 1B and both corner outfield positions. Cooper has been a quiet, but very consistent contributor to the Marlins’ lineup. However, entering his age-30 season, he doesn’t really fit the team’s rebuilding timeline.
Cooper would slide nicely into the Rays’ lineup and would have a chance to play every day barring any injuries. Over the past three seasons, he has a .341 wOBA against righties and .383 wOBA against lefties. He hits righties at an above-average rate and has absolutely mashed left-handed pitching the past few seasons. In addition, he has maintained a .364 wOBA in FanGraphs’ characterization of “High Leverage” situations. He’s had a .401 wOBA with runners in scoring position and his .272 wOBA through 2-strike counts is also above the league average of .241. He has been on pace for over 20 HR and 90 RBI in all of the past three seasons, given they were each season of full health and length. Cooper is a very well-rounded hitter who should benefit from a strong lineup like the Rays. His ability to hit any type of pitching gives him the shot to finally reach his first 20 HR season.
Zach McCambley was regarded as a “data darling” coming into the 2020 draft. He has a very nice fastball/curveball combo that plays really well off of each other. His stuff gives him the flexibility to serve in both a starter or relief role. Here’s a look at McCambley’s pitch characteristics, courtesy of BaseballCloud’s BCTeam.
McCambley was dominant out of the gate in A+, striking out 73 while only walking six batters in 57.1 IP. After a promotion to Double-A, he struggled to find his command, walking 20 batters in 40 innings. The command has always been a concern for McCambley. The Rays have proven to be one of the most successful organizations in terms of player development. With a little help from the Rays, McCambley seems like a potential high-leverage reliever/backend starter in the next few years. Connor Scott seems like a prototypical Rays’ prospect. He is a very plus runner and defender with room to grow on the offensive end. With a build and swing similar to Kyle Tucker, he has solid power potential and will always be a threat on the base paths. The former first-round pick is coming off his best year in the minors with a .348 wOBA, 112 wRC+, 10 HR, and 14 SB stat-line. He should continue to thrive in the Rays’ organization.
The Marlins have built tremendous pitching depth throughout their organization but still need to add some offense before they can truly compete They are particularly thin at the catcher and outfield positions. This deal should help them on both ends. The Marlins gain some much-needed outfield depth and a potential everyday catcher if the cards fall in the right place. The Rays make room for their now crowded catcher position on the 40-man roster, gain an underrated, but true impact player leading into 2022 and add a pair of high upside prospects who won’t warrant Rule 5 protection for at least a year.
Phillies – Manuel Margot
Rays – Non-Rule 5 prospects (McGarry, etc)
Manuel Margot is one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball and is a fine hitter, especially against left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, like Meadows, his projected $5 million price tag makes him unlikely to return next season. The Phillies have a large hole to fill in the outfield after declining their options on Odubel Herrera and Andrew McCutchen, so Margot fits that profile perfectly. Margot is one of the only outfielders in the MLB to have at least 10 Outs Above Average each the past three full seasons. He has true 15 HR/15 SB potential every year and is still pretty affordable for a team like the Phillies at only 27 years old.
The Rays need to clear space on their 40-man roster, so the return should include a non-Rule 5 prospect or two. It’s hard to know a team’s willingness to part with a prospect they just drafted, but Griff McGarry makes a lot of sense in a potential return for Margot. McGarry was a recent 5th-round pick by the Phillies and was dominant through 24.1 IP in High A. His 5.18 BB/9 is a bit of a concern but his 15.9 K/9 and a 1.97 FIP stand out. McGarry has a great fastball with some coveted characteristics for progressive teams (plus VB, very flat VAA, low release height, mid-high 90s velo).
Looking at the BCTeam chart above, he threw his fastball just around 70% of the time, yet still managed a Whiff rate of nearly 50%. He’s still working on the development of his secondaries and needs to improve his command, but McGarry seems like another perfect candidate for the Rays to take into their development system. Maybe another prospect to pair with McGarry seems like a solid trade for both the Phillies and Rays. The Phillies gain an elite outfielder who can contribute on the base paths and at the plate. The Rays shed $5 million from the payroll, clear room on the 40-man, and add another high-upside arm in Griff McGarry.
The next trade:
Mariners – Mike Brosseau, Rule 5 eligible (Dodson, Sampen, Boldt, etc)
Rays – Dylan Moore, Wyatt Mills
Mike Brosseau is a former postseason hero with a unique skill set. Brosseau is surprisingly athletic and versatile and has hit left-handed pitching very well throughout his career. He struggled in 2021 and seems to be expendable for the Rays. He has the ability to play any infield or corner outfield position if needed, but has spent most of his time at second or third. The Mariners were one of the worst teams against left-handed pitching last year. Brosseau’s versatility and strength against lefties should be of value to the Mariners heading into 2022. Adding another Rule 5 eligible player would help round out the deal and allow the Rays to capitalize on their value with the risk of losing them.
Dylan Moore seems like such a Ray. He is a fast, well above-average defender who has the ability to play seven positions. He struggled a bit offensively in 2021 after a breakout 2020 campaign. Despite this, he still managed to steal 21 bases and hit 12 HR in 377 plate appearances. He was in the 97th percentile in Statcast’s Outs Above Average and has been consistently near the 80th percentile in Sprint Speed. His extreme versatility coupled with his ability to hit left-handed pitching can be of value to the Rays and the organization’s creativity with lineups and platoons. This series of tweets shows the type of defensive versatility Moore brings to the table.
Wyatt Mills is an interesting arm who also struggled a bit at the major league level through 12.2 IP in 2021. Previously, Mills had been one of the best relievers in all of the minor leagues. Through four years in the minors, Mills has managed a 2.54 FIP with an average 12.07 K/9. Mills has an interesting pitch arsenal with a unique arm angle. He’s primarily utilizes a sinker/slider combo with a solid fastball thrown in the mix. His sinker generates some of the best horizontal movement in the MLB (-18.2 in) while coming from a basically side-arm release point. The fastball comes in from a slightly more vertical release point but has one the flattest Vertical Approach Angles among all pitchers. The slider is a nice complementary pitch in his arsenal that tunnels well with the sinker. Mills also seems like a Ray already and still has two minor league options which would provide the team with some versatility on the active roster. The Mariners gain a versatile bat who’s calling card is his ability to hit left-handed pitching, something the team struggled with mightily in 2021. The Rays gain an extremely versatile, athletic bat and a promising young reliever.
Tigers – Ji-Man Choi
Rays – Wilmer Flores
This trade is simply to clear space on the 40-man roster. Ji-Man Choi is a clear fan-favorite and absolutely mashes righties. He’s been a well above-average hitter against RHP over the past five seasons with a career .342 wOBA. Choi does swing and miss a bit but has a good feel at the plate with a strong ability to control the strike zone. He’s a bit limited in the field and on the base paths, but his presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse is not to be understated. The Tigers are hoping to be in a position to compete over the next few years and Ji-Man has very good experience on successful teams and will add great value against right-handed pitching, an area where the Tigers ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2021. Given his platoon role, Choi shouldn’t warrant too much in return. The theme of getting back an upside prospect that is protected from the draft should be another priority. A guy like Wilmer Flores fits that bill. Flores is a young pitching prospect with an electric fastball/curve combo that boded well in 2021.
Cardinals – Ford Proctor, Louis Head
Rays – Alex Reyes, Alec Burleson
Ford Proctor would likely be a priority add to the 40-man for most teams in a Rule 5 eligible year. The Rays’ depth forces them to make tough decisions on guys who are likely deserving of a spot on the 40-man roster. Proctor is a uniquely versatile catcher who has spent an equal amount of time at SS and 2B. He has a smooth left-handed bat with very good feel for the strike zone. The extremely deep middle infield would make it tough for Proctor, to find a role but his versatility to go behind the plat helps him stand out. Zunino is the catcher for 2022, and a promising young duo of Blake Hunt and René Pinto also hurt Proctor’s chances of having a set role moving forward. His above-average hit tool and unique versatility should provide good value in return. Louis Head is a journey-man reliever who found a spot with the Rays in 2021. He put together a very impressive season in 53 appearances between Triple A and the big leagues. Head allowed a .225 wOBA while maintaining a 3.11 FIP and 4.03 SIERA in 35 innings at the big league level. He has a good fastball with a very flat VAA and plus VB. His slider also has above-average movement and was effective in generating whiffs and limiting barrels. Head was a solid contributor to the Rays’ bullpen in 2021, but his value is replaceable and including him in the trade would help clear even more room on the 40-man.
Alex Reyes is the main piece in return. The Rays never had a clear 9th inning guy in 2021. This solves that problem. Reyes is a former top prospect once lofted with the expectation of leading the Cardinals as their ace for years to come. Injuries derailed these expectations, but he was able to carve out a new role as a high-leverage reliever. Reyes served as the Cardinals’ closer during the first half of the 2021 season and was absolutely dominant. He converted 24 consecutive save opportunities to start the season with a .253 wOBA and 3.65 FIP in 43.1 innings pitched.
Reyes struggled in the second half where his FIP skyrocketed to 5.51 and his role as the closer was rescinded to the emerging Giovanni Gallegos. He’s always struggled with command throughout his career, but, nonetheless, Reyes possesses elite stuff with a very deep pitch arsenal for a reliever. He throws a firm fastball that rides up into the high 90s with 17.4 inches of vertical break. His slider is also firm and was one of the more effective pitches in baseball last year. The 55.8 Whiff% was the fourth highest among pitchers who threw their slider at least 200 times. Despite being thrown at 86.4 MPH, the pitch is still 10 MPH off of his fastball on average with about a 13 inches of horizontal variance on the pitch. Reyes’ sinker is equally as firm as the fastball but hasn’t been as effective. His changeup is thrown about 9% of the time with modest horizontal movement but was relatively effective last year in its own right. His curveball had the most drop (-19.6 in) out of all pitchers who threw their curveball at least 5 times last season. The pitch was thrown about 8% of the time but still generated a whiff exactly half the time. The slider has been the more effective pitch, but the extreme movement profile does present some promise for future success. Reyes has an extremely deep arsenal for a back-end reliever and should serve as the Rays’ primary high-leverage guy. His struggles in the second half of 2021 should not be taken lightly but his stuff is elite and has proven to be highly successful for an extended period of time. The injury history is another concern but a full season of health with over 70 innings of work is encouraging. His history as a starter should give the Rays the flexibility to use him in a variety of high-leverage situations. I think Reyes could be best used in a role that allows him to reach 100-plus innings of high-leverage relief in any capacity. Alec Burleson is the other piece of the deal coming back to the Rays. Burleson was the 70th overall pick in the 2020 Draft and has been a very quick riser through the minor league system. He’s already reached Triple A in his first full season of pro ball. He crushed in Low A and Double A but struggled a bit when reached the Triple A level. Overall, his .358 wOBA, 22 HR, and 76 RBI in 503 plate appearances through three minor league levels is still a very strong showing for his first year in professional baseball. The bat still has room to grow but is a strong tool and should continue to improve in the Rays’ system. He has a good arm and is athletic enough to handle the outfield, but he could be seen as a first baseman down the line. Burleson is protected from the draft for a few years and could be an especially valuable pick up to add to the minor league system given that the Rays are at risk of losing a few first baseman and outfielders this year to the Rule-5 Draft.
Overall, the Cardinals gain a very high-upside prospect in Ford Proctor with a strong offensive game and a fascinating defensive profile. The Rays gain a proven reliever with elite stuff who should be set to anchor the back-end of their bullpen and a strong, offensive lefty who could serve as a replacement to potential Rule-5 draftees. The Cardinals do lose a bullpen piece in Reyes, but already have an established closer in Gallegos, an electric set-up man in Jordan Hicks, and gain Louis Head to maintain their bullpen depth. Both teams have something to gain from this deal.
The Final Trade
Reds – Kevin Kiermaier, Andrew Kittredge
Rays – Bryce Bonnin, Jay Allen / Yassel Pino / Daniel Vellojin / Vincent Timpanelli
Kevin Kiermaier has been an integral part of the Rays organization for the past seven years. He is without a doubt one of, if not the, top defensive outfielder in all of baseball. Kiermaier’s been an average hitter throughout his career but has power in his bat and provides value on the base paths as well. He’s a tough player to let go for everything he’s done and meant to the organization. However, his combined $26 million salary along with the emerging young studs in Josh Lowe and Vidal Brujan make him expendable. Outside of Starling Marte, the market for centerfielders is very thin this offseason. Kiermaier has battled injuries throughout his career due to his aggressive play style in the outfield, so now is a favorable time to gain value in a trade. Andrew Kittredge was re-signed to a minor league deal just about a year ago and has far surpassed the expectations of anybody, including the Rays. In 71.2 IP, he managed to work a 3.04 FIP, won 9 games, saved 8, and maintained a .251 wOBA, which was in 93rd percentile of all qualified pitchers. Kittredge was very effective in all types of settings, especially in high-leverage ones where allowed a .268 wOBA and struck out 18 in 14.2 innings in that role. He walked on 5.3% of batters in total and his 45.6 out of zone swing% was the highest among all relievers. Kittredge has always had a pretty good sinker/slider combo, but the emergence of his fastball, particularly to lefties, has been a large part of his success. The pitch had almost 10 inches less of horizontal movement from years past. It is now slightly more “cutter-ish” and was thrown almost exclusively to lefties, resulting in a .238 wOBA on the pitch. That, alongside his already strong primaries, created a dominant reliever who provided some uncomfortable at bats for hitters. Kittredge is entering his age 32 season and is projected to make $1.5 million after arbitration. His value will likely never be higher and Rays will have already established cheaper, and potentially equally as effective replacement options via other trades this offseason.
A guy like Bryce Bonnin makes a lot of sense in return. Graham Ashcraft would be fit too, but he’s likely viewed as the Reds’ top pitching prospect outside of Hunter Greene and the team may be hesitant to part ways with him in this type of deal. Bonnin has a plus fastball riding up to 98 and a plus slider that’s also firm and is especially tough coming from his deceptive cross-delivery. He was dominant in Low A, maintaining a 1.90 FIP and 12.4 K/9 in 32 innings pitched. He struggled a bit through 11 innings after a promotion to High A. His strikeouts were up a lot but struggles with command were the downfall. Bonnin has two really good pitches, but needs to develop a stronger third offering and improve his command. Overall, he has a promising skill-set and delivery that could work well with the Rays’ development system. Also, he’s not Rule 5 eligible for another two years which is another plus. One or two more younger prospects added to the deal make sense too. Jay Allen’s combination of speed, defense, and raw power have Rays written all over it, but he was just drafted in 2021. Yassel Pino, Daniel Vellojin, and Vincent Timpanelli are other names that had great 2021s and could make sense for the Rays.
The Reds have a clear outfield need, especially in centerfield, and Kevin Kiermaier seems like a great guy to slot into that role. They also had a bottom 5 bullpen in 2021, so the addition of Andrew Kittredge can help sure that up. The Rays unload at least $27 million off of the books over the next two years and capitalize on the value of both Kiermaier and Kittredge. Of course, some more high-upside prospects come along with it.
Austin Meadows (OF)
Joey Wendle (3B/2B)
Manuel Margot (OF)
Kevin Kiermaier (OF)
Francisco Mejia (C)
Mike Brosseau (2B/3B)
Ji-Man Choi (1B)
Andrew Kittredge (RP)
Louis Head (RP)
At least three Rule 5 eligibles (Proctor, Cardenas, etc)
Victor González (RP)
Nick Sandlin (RP)
Garrett Cooper (1B/OF)
Dylan Moore (UTL)
Wyatt Mills (RP)
Alex Reyes (RP)
Non Rule-5 prospects (McCambley, McGarry, Burleson, Bonnin, Allen, etc)
Here a few other guys that are candidates for another trade or a non-tender situation:
- Matt Wisler
- Brett Honeywell
- Dietrich Enns
Wisler has been good reliever the past few years, but is due for about $1.8 million in arbitration this offseason. Brett Honeywell has faced a lot of adversity over the past few years after a promising career in the minors. Unfortunately, he’s out of minor league options and doesn’t seem to have a place on the major league team at the moment. The same story goes for Dietrich Enns who was a tremendous success story after a long career in the minor leagues. He’s entering his age 32 season and no longer has any minor league options.
Other guys I strongly considered for the Rays to acquire-
Austin Slater/Steven Duggar
Part 3 of this series will focus on free agency and conclude with a final roster overview.